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Problematic Alcohol Consumption by Police Officers and Other Protective Service Employees: A Comparative Analysis

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 40 Issue: 1 Dated: January/February 2012 Pages: 72-82
Henriikka Weir; Daniel M. Stewart; Robert G. Morris
Date Published
February 2012
11 pages
This study analyzed differences in indicators of alcohol use/abuse and mental health between members of protective service occupations (PSOs) and members of other occupational groups.
Although the highly stressful work of PSO employees is believed to make them more vulnerable to mental health disorders and alcohol abuse as a maladaptive coping mechanism, the current study found only limited support for PSO employees' excessive alcohol abuse and no support for their greater vulnerability toward mental health problems. PSO employees were significantly more likely to have consumed an alcoholic beverage at some point in their lives when compared to the general population; however, at the time of this study, currently employed PSO members consumed alcoholic beverages less frequently than members of other occupational groups. In addition, only partial support was found for the belief that PSOs have more problematic drinking behaviors. It is unclear whether these findings stem from PSOs' under-reporting of alcoholic abuse and/or mental health problems compared with other occupational groups, or whether it is because PSO screening of potential employees is more thorough than other occupations in detecting and excluding persons with drug/alcohol abuse and mental health issues. Data for this study were obtained from a subset of 25,622 respondents in the 2009 National Survey of Drug Use and Health. A total of 584 respondents (2.28 percent) reported being PSO employees. The remaining 97.72 respondents reported employment in a non-PSO occupation. Data on the five alcohol-related variables were derived from respondents' self-reports. Data were obtained on seven variables indicative of adverse mental health issues; these variables pertained to problematic psychological problems and social behaviors. Study limitations are noted, and further research is recommended. 5 tables, 17 notes, 88 references, and appended survey items used in obtaining study data